Christianity,  News

Wise words about avoiding student loan debt

What would happen if students gave up the quest for elite college degrees and the high price tags that come with them? They might end up like Arthur Brooks, President of the American Enterprise Institute and a former tenured professor at Syracuse University. Brooks earned his college degree through correspondence courses that only cost him about $10,000. He spent about $5,000 on his Master’s before finishing a Ph.D. with a fellowship. He finished the whole process with no debt at the end. His career has shown that it really is possible to rub two sticks together to make fire, and that is exactly what he has done.

Brooks writes about his experience in a recent New York Times op-ed, and I recommend that you read “My Valuable, Cheap College Degree”. Two important take-aways from Brooks’ article: (1) The value of the college degree is going down, while its price has only gone up. (2) For this reason, students need to avoid student loan debt at all costs. Both of these points remind me of a helpful little video that I have pointed to before. It is as relevant as ever, and you can watch it below.

“…the borrower is the lender’s slave.” –Prov. 22:7


  • Mike Carmen

    Great idea! My niece, Danielle Metz, is one of my heroes! She worked her way through a four-year liberal arts degree at Milligan College in seven years and paid $44,670.00 – IN CASH!

    I encourage you and your readers to read her two articles “Steering Clear of College Debt” and “What the Bible Says about Giving.”

    As Dave Ramsey says, “Debt is dumb!”

    Mike Carmen

  • aaron

    I never have understood why people go to private schools for their undergrad degrees when they plan on going to grad school. Your last degree is what really matters so why fork out 3-4 times what you would pay at a state school. when possible I encourage people to live at home the first couple years with their folks and save money by getting your first two years at a community college which is usually vastly cheaper.

  • buddyglass

    Not sure I buy that bachelors degrees are “worth less” now than they were in the recent past. Also, the extent to which they have grown more expensive is greatly exaggerated. Sticker price has gone way up, but fewer and fewer people are paying full sticker price. Consider that kids whose parents income does not exceed ~$60k/yr can attend Harvard *for free*.

    I would certainly counsel a graduating high school student to attend college, and to take out loans if necessary. That said, I would also counsel him to think strategically when choosing which university to attend, which degree to pursue, and what to do during his summers.

    Taking on $200k of debt to get a degree that only barely improves one’s earning potential over the no-degree baseline is not wise. But by the same token, limiting one’s self to a less prestigious (i.e. valuable) degree because one is rigidly and categorically against ever taking on any debt is also foolish.

  • spurg63

    If one looks at the cost of post secondary education , the rise in cost is grossly out of line to what it should really be . Plus many BA programs are padded with courses that are not needed . That is the way it is in Canada. My son is in his last year and will come out owing less than 35 000 , which is excellent in terms of his earning potential . But the same degree , if it was at its proper level , even accounting for a 1% over the cost of living over increase the last 30 years , when it was very affordable , he would owe only little over 20 000. I don’t know how it is in the US but if one does not have a degree in Canada , according to all the earning stats I have seen , over a lifetime one will earn almost 800 to 900 hundred thousand less . That is worth a debt load that is manageable in my opinion.

  • Ben Montoya

    Hi Denny,

    I’m both glad and surprised to see this post on your blog. I’m glad because students need to avoid debt for studies, especially when the financial payoff will likely be low. I, however, am surprised because Boyce now costs over 14K per year for students (tuition and required, campus living costs for most students), with SBC subsidy, and significantly more for students who don’t qualify for the subsidy. How would you encourage schools like Boyce and Southern to keep the costs low? Also, how would you advise students who don’t have parents paying for the education?

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